John Kincade, co-host of 680 The Fan’s afternoon drive show “Buck & Kincade,” and host of ESPN Radio’s “The John Kincade Show,” was kind enough to answer some questions from me, a long-time listener and infrequent blogger. Although I was most interested in hearing about 80’s sitcom TV moms, I think his assessment of Atlanta sports fans is dead on, as is his metaphor of bloggers as perceived “wedding crashers.” Oh, and no truth to the rumor that I begged for him to give me Buck Belue’s (his co-host, and QB of the 1980 National Champion Georgia Bulldogs) home address, given that I’m a UGA grad and that “Lindsay Scott!! Lindsay Scott!! Lindsay Scott!!” is one of my first memories as a child.
Atlanta Sports Fan: How did you get started in sports talk radio? What’s been your proudest achievement in this business?
John Kincade: While working for the Philadelphia Flyers and coach Mike Keenan in the mid-80s while a student at Temple University, I was asked by WCAU radio in Philadelphia to be their “Flyers Insider” during the playoff run. I was studying broadcasting at Temple, but thought I wanted to be an NHL coach. This was a good way for me to experience the broadcast business, which was a passion, and to talk about something that I loved–hockey! After one playoff year, Sportsradio 610 WIP caught my work and started to use me in small spots that got bigger as hosts like Angelo Cataldi enjoyed my work. I relocated to Atlanta in 1995 for what was supposed to be a short stay of a few years for business. I started working at the original 680 The Fan on the weekends, then 790 The Zone in the same capacity. In 1999 I “retired” from the business world and pursued radio full time. I took an 87% pay cut to do it! I did Thrashers radio broadcasts with Ferrell and Kamal and hosted a weekend radio show with Mike Bell and Julie Ionni. The next summer 680 The Fan was being reborn, and they hired me to be a co-host for the afternoon drive show.
ASF: How have you and Buck developed the chemistry required to stick together for 7-8 years? That’s unheard of in sports talk radio–especially in Atlanta. Do you guys ever get tired of each other?
JK: Buck’s answer may be different than mine! All kidding aside, of course we get tired of each other from time to time. You have great days, tense days, but rarely awful days. This is a very passionate buisness and the job is very close quarters. You are reliant on each other for mutual success. Buck and I both understand this from our time in team sports–you have to work together. And I have a saying: sometimes it’s the Buck Show, when we are at a big college football weekend. Sometimes it’s the Kincade Show, when we have a real breaking-news/controversial topic. Many days it’s the collaborative Buck and Kincade Show. Both of us know when the other is going to “drive the bus” a little more that day. We celebrate 8 years in afternoon drive on Labor Day and the show has never been more successful. Chemistry is not created, though; it just happens. Credit Mike Thompson (our first boss) for seeing the two of us independently and realizing it could be a hit!
ASF: You’ve been in Atlanta for some time now, and it seems you’re here to stay (much to the dismay of the “Get At Kincade” callers). What is it about Atlanta that has kept you here, other than gainful employment? Would you leave if ESPN came calling for full time duty?
JK: ESPN has called for full time duty in the past few years. The position was not one that would have been worth uprooting the family for. My wife and 4 year old daughter love Atlanta as much as I do. It is a less stressful lifestyle, and the “gainful employment” allows us to live very nicely. It is much more than I could ever have imagined as I grew up. To get paid to talk about what I would be talking about anyway is just a huge bonus. Thankfully, I have a great local stage on 680 The Fan and ESPN has given me a spot on the national stage where I can live here in Atlanta. I am very honored to do my own show nationally and to fill in for Colin Cowherd a few weeks every year.
ASF: Describe Atlanta sports fans in 2-3 sentences.
JK: Atlanta’s college sports fans are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate that you will find anywhere in the country. Atlanta pro sports fans are fickle and inconsistent with their support and passion. Atlanta sports fans have a huge chip on their shoulder whenever teams from more successful cities are brought into the conversation.
ASF: Bob Costas’s HBO Town Hall Meeting – going into it, were you optimistic that there would be intelligent discourse, or were you afraid that it would turn into an assault on sports talk radio and bloggers? Did you think talk radio and bloggers were treated fairly?
JK: I did not have high expectations. When I saw that Mike Tirico and Dan Patrick were going to be the representatives for sports talk radio I knew that the topic was in trouble. I respect Dan and Mike and their place in the sports industry immensely. What they do in sports radio is far different though than what your local drive time hosts do every day. They are national, well connected, friends or at least acquaintances with almost every guest they interview. It changes how you do the job. What they do is very informative and interesting. You rarely get strong opinions and criticisms, especially of their peers. Just look at the major radio markets,–the consumers of the product almost uniformly choose to hear from their local favorites over the national hosts.
I think that the bloggers were made out to be “wedding crashers,” and people whose opinions don’t deserve to be heard. I disagree. I have publicly stated that I don’t think bloggers deserve press box and locker room access. Bloggers don’t have the professional responsibility that I have to my employers and the advertisers. I have to keep things at a professional level. They can sling whatever they want without ramifications. That said, I want bloggers to have their voices heard just as I want mine heard. People can choose for themselves what they prefer. I don’t need Bob Costas to tell me what is acceptable or “good.”
ASF: What do you think is the most positive thing that sports talk radio can contribute?
JK: It is a voice for the fans. It is a chance to enjoy the conversation, debate, and discourse on their favorite teams and breaking sports news. It is immediate. It is topical. When done right you can entertain while including strong opinions and criticism. I always say that we are just guys with an opinion and a radio show. I am not that much different than the listener EXCEPT for my access to the coaches, athletes and fellow media members.
ASF: Do you read any sports blogs? If so, which ones, and how often–besides my blog, which you read daily, of course…
JK: I find many blogs, like yours and some of the AJC blogs, very interesting. I like hearing another opinion. It gives me more ways to think as I try to articulate my own opinion. Sometimes I even get swayed a bit by a passionate argument. I do find that many bloggers comment about coaches, GMs, players and what they are doing and thinking. I wonder, how are they coming to that conclusion when they don’t know these people at all?
ASF: Many people say “if you don’t like the TV show, change the channel.” However, because of ESPN’s gigantic reach, you almost can’t do that if you want to watch sports news/coverage. I realize you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you, but is that dangerous? Is ESPN too big?
JK: In my opinion, ESPN is big because they do it better than their competition. If they were not serving the audience, the ratings and revenues would sink. Are there things about ESPN that I would change? Absolutely! I like my Sportscenter to be the way it was in the 80s and early 90s. I don’t need all the opinion segments and debate. I like the sports news, highlights and features. If other networks picked up their game a little, they may carve out a nice little niche for themselves. It is fashionable to bash ESPN, yet no one has a formula to beat them.
ASF: You’ve been critical of the local teams in the past when they haven’t been accessible to the media. You mentioned on Tuesday that the new Falcons’ regime has been more available to the local media. Do you think this is sincere, and will continue, or is it a PR move? What’s your impression of the new guys (GM Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Mike Smith) after dealing with them one on one?
JK: I think the Falcons have realized that they need to be friendlier to the people that give them free exposure. They got rid of their ridiculous association with 790 The Zone as the “official” sports talk station this year. The Falcons had more of their fans and a great number more of listeners consuming 680 The Fan and they made the move. I think this will last.
Dimitroff and Smith are both first-class gentlemen. We will see what kind of football executives they are over time.
ASF: Which was the funnier 680 The Fan/Max Howell bit – when he tried to repeat Dikembe Mutombo’s full (9 words long) name, or when he tried to rap an Eminem song? Do you ever hear from him these days? (For those who have never heard of him, Max Howell is a radio host (syndicated in some markets) originally from Prattville, Alabama with a very deep southern accent. He was a part of the midday program on 680 The Fan 4-5 years ago).
JK: I think Max trying to read the Thrashers roster was still the funniest bit ever. Max rapping is in a class all by itself. Max is one of the greatest influences on my career. He taught me that I better embrace what the locals embrace if I want to be successful. I did not have to be a fan of any team or player, but I better be talking about what THE FANS want to hear. Max is one of those guys that you think on the surface is just a laid back good old boy and then you reflect and you understand he is as sharp as any Madison Avenue executive–he just does not feel the need to let you know that.
ASF: Do you have any regrets about not pursuing your hockey coaching career further? And is Mike Keenan as much of a jerk as he seems?
JK: Mike Keenan is one of the greatest personal influencers in my life. I started to work for Mike at the age of 19 as a college student. I wanted to be a hockey coach. He took me under his wing, worked me ungodly amounts of hours and took the time to help me out in so many ways. My dad had died a few years earlier and Mike was never warm and fuzzy, but he was a great Father figure. Keenan is a genius and is very misunderstood.
I enjoyed my time coaching at the high school, club and collegiate levels. I really did want to coach an NHL team. I just got side tracked on my way as I did not want to ride buses in the minors for low pay and do that struggling that it takes to succeed. I was willing to do that for a radio career and did. I guess that it was not my prime passion after all!
ASF: As a Temple grad, what’s your opinion on John Chaney? Like, love, loathe, tolerate?
JK: John Chaney in his early years at Temple was outstanding. In his later years I found him to be an embarrassment. He got too powerful and nobody could control him. He got bigger than the program and I am glad that he moved on. He is still a great coach, but needed to leave.
ASF: You’ve interviewed a ton of sports celebrities during your time at 680 The Fan. Who was the best interview you’ve ever done? The worst?
JK: The worst was one of the tennis playing twins from Georgia. I criticized him for oversleeping for a match and he hung up on me, saying I was being unfair. The best interview may have been my on-air debate with Stuart Scott (ASF – this was great. Stuart Scott actually said “I’m not one of those guys who jock sniffs.”) or Governor Sonny Perdue. I questioned the professionalism of Scott for getting too close to the athletes he covers. He took great offense. I also told the Governor that I felt he had better things to worry about than UGA football headlines. He disagreed. I never shy away from speaking my mind.
ASF: A few years back, you told the story on your show of running into Meredith Baxter-Birney in Las Vegas. I also seem to remember a Judith Light encounter at some point as well. Just how many 80s TV moms do you interact with on a day-to-day basis, and which one is the hottest in person?
JK: I am a huge old TV fan, and have had the embarrassing guilty pleasure of being a General Hospital fan for years. I don’t see many 80s Moms around, but I do have a crush on Kelly Monaco from GH (ASF – Wow. Me too, John).
ASF: Will you ever forgive George O’Leary for snubbing you in a hotel lobby a few years back?
JK: Of course! I think that the karmic gods took care of George very nicely for me.